Saturday, November 10, 2012

Creating a Warm Welcoming Home for Your Holiday Guests

Hanging Pumpkin Tealight Holders, from Pier 1 Imports

QUICK THINGS TO DO THIS WEEKEND:

  • Have you had a glass of orange juice lately? If you don't have any orange juice in the house, add that to your shopping list for the week. Or shake things up a bit from your normal routine, and pick up some blood orange juice or tangerine juice. (I was excited to see Trader Joe's new canned pineapple juice this week, too!)

  • Make some time tonight or tomorrow night for yourself: Treat yourself to a beauty regimen you don't normally take time for. Apply a mud mask, a hair mask or hot oil treatment, exfoliate your skin, use a sugar scrub on your hands and legs, or give yourself a pedicure. All these are things you can do while you're watching TV or in the fifteen minutes before you go to bed.

  • Look over the remaining weeks of this month. Need to make any doctor, dentist or vet appointments? Need a haircut, dye touch-up, hair trim or manicure? Who has a birthday coming up? Do you have a couple of quiet nights at home booked in and solidly enforced (meaning if someone calls to invite you somewhere on that night, you firmly say no, sorry that's my down time?) Anybody in your household need to schedule a haircut so they look nice for Thanksgiving?

  • Are you having formal holiday pictures taken? If you take them now, you avoid the crowds and rush. You might even be able to deliver them in person on Thanksgiving!

  • Write two holiday cards, stamp them and put on your mailing table ready to go out. The more Christmas, holiday or Hanukkah cards you write right now, the easier your life will be in late December. You don't have to mail them right now - no need to rush the holidays before they begin.

  • Fridge and freezer maintenance - This weekend, clean one drawer, one shelf, or two door shelves in both your fridge and your freezer. Doing this every week means your fridge gets cleaned out every month.

  • Check your coat closet, which is going to get a lot of use in the next several fall and winter months. Does it need to be tidied up? Any coats that have migrated elsewhere in the house and need to be rehung in their proper place in the coat closet? Any coats that are looking dingy or smelling musty? If so, take them to the dry cleaner. What items can you remove from the closet to de-clutter it? (I just removed some board games and put them in our new board game closet). Need to vacuum the carpet inside the closet, dust the shelf or remove excessive empty hangers?

  • Have you had your carpets cleaned in the last six months? If not, make an appointment to have your carpets cleaned, or rent a steamer from your local grocery, hardware or Home Depot this weekend. I don't really like to clean my carpets right before the rainy, snowy, muddy season, but I also don't like to invite guests over when I have filthy carpets! Every time I have my carpet cleaned I realize how affordable it is. I have a relatively small cozy house, and lots of wood floors. My three bedrooms, living room, six carpeted stairs and small hallway can be cleaned professionally for around $130. It's so worth it.

  • Make meal plan for the week; create grocery shopping list; shop as needed.

THIS WEEKEND'S PROJECTS:

Bookcase Sorting

Paterson Black Bookcase, from Crate and Barrel

Now that it's dark, cold, and rainy at night, I'm finding myself making more time to just sit quietly and read. I read a lot in the summer too, but then there are more distractions from visitors, neighbors, pets and kids playing noisily outdoors, etc. In fall and winter, it's quieter and I can enjoy reading for longer stretches of time.

Even though I'm reading more and more books on my Kindle Fire, I still have past accumulations of hardback and paperback books from my book shopping addiction years. My bookshelves are a straining, groaning, terrible mess. Every few months I completely sort and organize them, but then they get messy and cluttered again. I still have four or five boxes of books in the garage, despite making a concerted effort to read, then recycle or give away a book or two every week.

We're going to the library more often than bookstores, and buying electronic versions of books, so now I just have to make myself take the time to enjoy my existing books, read them, and then make difficult decisions on which ones to keep and which ones I should let go of.

If you choose to tackle this project over the weekend, take it one shelf at a time (so you don't get overwhelmed). Pick up each book and ask yourself, "Have I read this yet? How long have I owned this unread book? Am I really going to read this book in the next six months? Is this a beautiful coffee table book, or a reference book I need to keep around? Is this a sentimental book? Did someone special give this to me? Is the flyleaf inscribed?" Am I ever really truly going to re-read this book?

Maybe some of your friends might be interested in a book or two of yours. Offer some books around, but don't make your book clutter someone else's problem too.

Organize the books that are left, dust the bookshelves and replace in an organized manner that makes sense to you.

Gearing Up for Holiday Guests

Santa and Reindeer Candles, from Pier 1 Imports

Are you ready to host holiday guests? Even if you don't have any plans for family or friends to visit, you might want to see if your guest room (or pull-out sofa) is ready for company. You never know who might drop in, or if someone will get stranded overnight at your house due to weather-related problems. Perhaps someone might need to stay the night after enjoying too many beverages at your cocktail party! This weekend I'm getting my guest room ready for holiday company.

I'll start by taking down the dusty guest room curtains and laundering them. I'll also wash the guest bedding so it isn't dusty or musty, and I'll Febreze the throw pillows. Next I'll vacuum the carpet, dust baseboards and closet doors, wash the windows and sill, dust the nightstands and bookcase, and wipe down the lamps.

Is there room in your guest room closet for guests to hang their clothing? Or do you have it cluttered up with stuff you're storing? I need to remove six boxes of toys - this guest room was recently converted from my playroom. I've got to figure out where to store the toys so they're easily accessible, but not underfoot.

Microplush Blankets, at Target

I'll make sure there's up-to-date bottled water in the room for guests to drink, and a clean glass to drink out of; plus a candle and a set of matches up high on a bookcase so guests could feel free to scent their room.

I have two lamps, an alarm clock, and a box of Kleenex within easy reach of the bed. I keep a selection of four different sleeping pillows on the bed for someone to choose between. I don't like to keep a pillow around for more than a couple of years due to dust mites, so I recently bought some inexpensive pillows for this bed at Costco.

Have you ever slept overnight in your guest room so you know if the bed is comfy, the blankets adequate, the pillows restful, the lighting good for reading in bed, and the temperature in the room ideal?

Are you hiding clutter in your guest room (under the bed perhaps?) that needs to be sorted, given away, sold, thrown away or stored elsewhere in your home? I used to store my holiday dishes under the guest bed, but last year I moved them to a bin in my storage area in the garage instead. (And I did use those dishes several times last year, so I feel justified in keeping them). Now the only thing hiding under my guest bed is the occasional cat, hiding from the dogs.

Right before guests actually arrive (perhaps as soon as next weekend) I'll spritz the room with just a tiny bit of cinnamon-scented room spray, fold a fuzzy throw at the foot of the bed, put fresh flowers in a vase in the room, and put a thoughtfully selected set of three or four books on the nightstand to suggest to my guests.

LOVELY DISHES: Crate and Barrel 50th Anniversary Teapots

To celebrate their fiftieth anniversary this year, Crate and Barrel collaborated with twelve designers to create new limited edition teapots based on the classic Bauhaus Arzberg teapot shape. They'll sell one teapot every month online only. I love some of these designs, though I probably wouldn't commit to shelf space for the adorable fox teapot above. One of the floral ones would tempt me more.

50th Anniversary Teapots, at Crate and Barrel

LOVELY WINTER PROJECTS: Journaling

The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal, on Amazon

I enjoy doing several fun creative projects throughout the year. That way my life does not solely focus around work and housekeeping. My projects make sure my life has more fun things in it besides my beloved friends and family - projects are things I do just for myself.

In summer it's difficult to drag myself in from the outdoors, so I do most of my creative projects during cold, dark, rainy fall and winter nights.

Do you enjoy writing? One possible project you might begin this winter is journaling.

Tiffany Studios Blank Writing Notebook, on eBay

Journaling can take many forms - a gratitude journal, a diary, letters, writing exercises, recording your dreams, memoirs, and travelogues.

It can serve many other useful purposes, as well - spiritual discovery, memoir development, writing improvement, grief recovery, healing, catharsis, life planning, a record of your cooking experiments, family history, creative stimulation, or confession.

Your journal can be written in an old notebook, a beautiful hardbound leather blank book, a blank journal you've creatively decorated, or it can even be a blog you keep and publish only for yourself. You can also just write using your word processor on your laptop; or the old fashioned way: an inexpensive pen and a paper college-ruled notebook.

I am very bad at remembering to journal every day. I tried techniques like keeping a hardbound journal next to the bed or in my purse. Neither seemed to remind me, so now I've given myself permission to write only when I feel like it. Luckily, I feel like it every few days. I've found if I create a fun project to write about, I'm extremely more likely to actually write in one of my journals than if I just sit around waiting for inspiration.

If you enjoy writing, make time for yourself to write in your journal as often as you feel like it. Treat that time as sacred, and make it known to family members how important it is to you to have that fifteen to twenty minutes to yourself uninterrupted. Turn off your phone, log out of Facebook, and turn off the TV. You might have to actually just leave your house once a week and go to a coffee shop to get your writing time in, if you can arrange your absence.

LOVELY BLOGS: Seasonal and Savory

"Really good real food." I so enjoy seasonal blogs that stay on topic and present foods and activities that perfectly complement the current weather and lifestyle of their readers. This one is written by Angela, a flexitarian (which means her recipes are vegetarian-friendly, easy to add or subtract meat to or from). Recent posts I've enjoyed include Green Beans with Sherried Mushrooms; Buffalo and Mushroom Loaf (that's not one you see every day in the blogosphere!); and Gingered Plum Crisp.

http://www.seasonalandsavory.com/

LOVELY TV: Top Chef Seattle

I'm so excited that Top Chef featured my hometown for their new season! I missed the first episode last week so I'll have to catch up to it on TIVO. My local friends and I are really tempted to throw weekly dinner parties to view it, but not sure we can cobble together nice enough dinners on weeknights with work and school early the next morning. Maybe we'll just have simple soup-and-salad dinners while we enjoy watching together.

http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Everything You Need to Know About Turkey (Epicurious)

Get Back To Your Roots: Tasty Recipes for Turnips, Carrots and Parsnips (Epicurious)

Hurricane Sandy Reveals a Life Unplugged (NY Times)

Jingle Bell Cake Pops (Bakerella)

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